On the morning of September the 19th 2014 like many people wanting Scottish independence it was a morning of gloom and depression. All the months, years even, of coming round to the idea of independence and then firmly believing that Scotland freeing itself of Westminster’s grasp would enable it to show the remainder of the UK an example of running a country free of neoliberal capitalism died. Instead the people of Scotland decided to stay in the UK, a decision in retrospect many regret in the light of the ‘Vow’ and the horrible mess that is the results of the Smith Commission.
Sitting here in Bristol for me it was devastating. The last months of the referendum campaign were profoundly energising to me as I engaged in politics in a way I’d not done in years, but sadly I still felt removed from the cauldron of Scottish debate as social media can only do so much. That said, I can’t describe the feelings of contempt and disgust as I heard of riots in Glasgow city centre in George Square (a space used by Yes campaigners all throughout the campaign for such a positive effect) by Unionists/SDL/Rangers fans and reports of them beating up people they didn’t like the look of, and that mean Asians, gays and of course, Yes supporters. See, I’d gone out here in Bristol that afternoon and got deeply, deeply drunk as that really was the most useful thing I think I could do, and hearing reports in the pub of riots I felt that all had been lost. The bastards won and not content with winning they were wiping our noses in shit for all the world to see, so I was angry but entirely impotent to do anything productive apart from pathetically sit alone at home drinking gin and weeping about a lost opportunity as Glasgow saw thugs tear up it’s streets.
The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, turned on my laptop and scrolled down the reports from various news sites, friends who live in Glasgow and were stunned by it all, and the Yes groups on social media couldn’t quite take this happening after the result of the referendum, but looking through all this one image stood out. That of a couple of young girls looking to be no more than late teens, early 20’s, defiantly standing against the thugs holding a Saltire.
Nobody knew who these girls were but it didn’t matter. The image of these girls holding a Saltire and standing against the people gloating about the defeat of everything they had possibly spent months, if not years fighting for was a wake up call as after all, if these girls could get themselves to George Square after the result and still stand defiant fighting for their beliefs then I, and others, could too. So after a bit of soul searching I decided to join the Green Party (still living in England means there’s not a lot of point joining the SNP) and that the idea to move back to Glasgow (an idea I’d been toying casually with and considering for reasons unrelated to the referendum) was going to happen sooner rather than later.
They gave me a visual kick up the arse and helped inspire me by standing up for themselves. Imagine then the shock when it was revealed these two girls were arrested by the police and were facing charges for something, though nobody really seems to give a good answer as to why the police decided to detain these girls using their right to peacefully protest against what were violent protesters.
Thankfully they won’t be going to trial, and they’ve been interviewed for the site, Common Space and it’s an interview worth reading. These girls were not prepared to let the vision of a better Scotland die that day at the hands of thugs and they were prepared to peacefully protest while making a stand that stands as an inspiration not only to auld bastards like myself, but to possibly the entire country as that image, that vision they stood for hasn’t died and they inspired me to stop feeling bloody sorry for myself, get up off my arse and do something. I know others did the same for similar reasons.
Cheers girls, I hope you realise the good you’ve done and just how brave and inspiring you were on that dark day last September. You’ll get your wish in your and my lifetime.